Alcohol killed more people in England and Wales last year than in any other year since records began, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), as many Brits turned to drink to cope with the isolation – and other suffering – caused by lockdowns. MailOnline has the story.
An ONS report published today revealed there were 7,423 fatalities linked to drinking last year, which was a fifth more than in 2019 and the highest number since records began in 2001.
People living in the poorest parts of the countries were four times more likely to have died from alcohol abuse compared to those in the wealthiest areas.
Alcohol-related deaths have been rising for decades. But they rose quickest from March 2020 onwards, after the first national lockdown came into force, and got progressively worse as the year went on.
Most deaths were related to long-term drinking problems and dependency – with alcoholic liver disease making up 80% of cases.
But experts told MailOnline that a year of social restrictions likely exacerbated Britain’s drinking problem. Dozens of surveys found people drank more than usual during lockdowns to cope with isolation, boredom and anxiety about the pandemic.
One in 10 of the alcohol-related deaths were from mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol misuse and 6% were from accidental alcohol poisoning…
Professor Paul Hunter, an Epidemiologist at the University of East Anglia, previously told MailOnline it was possible some of the increase was caused by excessive drinking during lockdown speeding up the deaths.
“If people with liver disease start drinking again, especially binge drinking, that would certainly be very bad for their liver and could lead to liver failure and subsequent death,” he added.
He added the spike in liver disease deaths could be down to patients struggling to access healthcare. Waiting lists have soared to record levels as a result of the NHS focusing on Covid patients.
The number of people dying because of alcohol got worse as lockdowns progressed through 2020.
Compared to 2019, there were just 8% more fatalities by March last year, compared to 30% more between October and December.
But between 2019 and 2020 the rise was 19.6%.
The spike highlights the “devastating impact” of the pandemic on problem drinking, according to the Portman Group – a regulator for alcohol labelling, packaging and promotions.
The increase in people dying from drink may partly explain last year’s drop in registered suicides – along with delays to coroner inquests – since they would be recorded as unintended injury deaths rather than as suicides.
The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.